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Revision issued June 12, 1915. 

U. S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. 

BUREAU OF PLANT INDUSTRY Circular No. 102. 
B. T. GALLOWAY, Chief of Bureau. 



'HE PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED. 



BY 

C. V. PIPER, 

Agrostologist in Charge of Forage- Crop Investigations, 

AND 

EDGAR BROWN, 
Botanist in Charge of Seed Laboratory. 






X" 






BUREAU OF PLANT INDUSTRY. 



CTiic; of Bureau, BEVEKLY T. GALLOWAY. 
Assistant Chief o] Bureau, WILLIAM A. TAYLOR. 
Editor, J. E. ROCKWELL. 
Ghie/ Cleric, JAMES E. JONES. 



n. P. I.-773. 



THE PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED. 



INTRODUCTION. 

During the past seven years the culture of hairy vetch has increase^ 
in the United States at least tenfold. The crop is constantly growing 
in favor in the Southern States for winter coyer and hay. In the 
North it is being used more and more on sandy lands and also on 
other soils where red clover no longer gives satisfactory returns. 
This rapid increase has been hi spite of the fact that the seed has 
been relatively costly, the farmer rarely purchasing it as low as $5 
a bushel, while in the last three years the seed has commanded 
$6 to $9 a bushel. This increase in price seems to be due mainly to 
the increased American demand, as the actual supply grown, in 
Europe is not large and thus far but little has been produced in the 
United States. The higher prices will doubtless tend to stimulate 
the growing of this seed in Europe, but it can be profitably produced 
in many parts of this country. Undoubtedly it will be economical 
for American farmers to grow the hairy vetch seed needed locally, 
and any surplus can always be sold at good prices. In good vetch- 
seed sections a crop of 5 bushels of hairy vetch and 20 bushels of 
rye to the acre can reasonably be expected, and under favorable 
conditions 10 to 12 bushels of hairy vetch seed to the acre can be 
grown. Even at $3 or $4 a bushel such crops are very profitable, 
and at this price the demand for the seed would certainly increase 
enormously. In view of this increasing demand, Ameiican farmers 
are urged to grow seed of this crop, at least for their local use, and 
also where the conditions prove very favorable to supply the general 
market. Satisfactory machines are now available to separate hairy 
vetch seed from rye. 

SOURCES OF SEED. 

At present practically all the seed used in this country is imported 
from Russia and Germany. Table I, showing the quantity of seed 
imported each fiscal year ended June 30 since 1905, together with 
the import prices, is based on the record of customhouse samples. 
It will be noted that the quantity of seed imported has increased 
very rapidly, especially since 1908. 

3 

306991 



PRODUCTION OF 'JAIRY VETCH SEED. 
7-ABjLE I. Hairy vetch seed importations. 



Fiscal year. 


Quantity 
(pounds). 


Average 
price per 
pound. 


Fiscal year. 


Quantity 
(pounds). 


Average 
price per 
pound. 


1905 


73,245 


$0 04fi 


1911 


954, 025 


$0 059 


1906 


68 354 


055 


1912 


635 470 


087 


1907 


208, 100 


.048 


1913 


1,947,000 


.045 


1908 


242 332 


042 


1914 


2,181,000 


049 


1909 


294, 896 


.039 


July 1, 1914, to May 30, 






1910 


542, 948 


.041 


1915 


461, 736 


.061 















The average price is considerably lower than the average price for 
a good quality of seed, because in these lots are included many which 
are low in quality, both on account of adulteration and low vitality. 

EUROPEAN METHODS OF GROWING HAIRY VETCH SEED. 

In the Baltic Provinces of Russia hairy vetch occurs as a more or 
less persistent weed in grain fields, and practically all of the supply 
of the seed from that region is secured by separation from the rye 
seed. 

In Prussia, especially in the provinces of East and West Prussia 
and Pomerania, there is extensive production for seed, but in Ger- 
many generally more hairy vetch is raised with rye for green fodder 
than for seed. The rate of seeding used in Germany is considerably 
heavier than that which has been found advisable for seed purposes 
in this country. The German Agricultural Society recommends 
sowing 53 pounds of hairy vetch and 72 pounds of rye to the acre, 
but the average rate of seeding is somewhat less, though the crop is 
usually grown on light, sandy soil where a comparatively heavy 
seeding is needed. Hairy vetch seed is universally sown with winter 
rye and usually with the variety known as Johannesroggen, or 
St. John's rye. This variety of rye is peculiar in that it can be sown 
as early as June and at any time thereafter until the latter part of 
September. It is a very free-stooling variety and makes a large leaf 
growth close to the ground. This rye supplies excellent pasturage in 
the fall, and the date of maturity is 10 to 15 days later than common 
rye. 

SEPARATION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED FROM RYE. 

As hairy vetch is usually sown in combination with rye it is not 
necessary to separate the mixed seed as harvested when about one- 
third of the mixture is vetch. Such mixed seed is far more economi- 
cal to use than to pay the present high price for imported seed. 

When a separation of the seeds is desirable it is easily and effect- 
lively accomplished by the use of a spiral separator, known in Europe 
as "Schneckentrieur," which requires no power, being operated by 
gravity. This apparatus is covered by United States Letters Patent 



PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED. 5 

No. 627970, dated July 4, 1899, and is now manufactured for sale in 
the United States. The machines seen in Russia had a capacity of 
50 to 75 bushels a day. 

A satisfactory separation of vetch seed can also be made by use 
of a cloth-belt apparatus by means of which the rye or other cereal 
seed is carried up and away on a belt, while the vetch seed falls over 
the belt to the bottom. A number of forms of this machine are 
patented, designed especially for the separation of buckhorn from 
clover seed. A separation which is sufficiently good for preparing 
mixed rye and vetch seed for sale locally can be obtained by letting 
the mixed seed run over a series of inclined boards, each set at a given 
angle and a slight distance apart, so that the vetch seed will run from 
one board to another and the rye seed, which does not run so readily, 
will drop through between the boards. This can easily be made by 
anyone for home use and requires no power to run, as the seed is 
simply allowed to fall over a series of steps. 

GROWING HAIRY VETCH FOR SEED. 

Hairy vetch wall produce a good crop of seed in most States. The 
largest crops have been grown on the Pacific coast, but those produced 
in the Northern States are but little smaller. In the Southern States 
the seed crop seems to vary greatly with the season, but good yields 
have been obtained. 

Hairy vetch is a whiter annual, behaving like winter wheat. If 
planted in the srping, it may produce a few blossoms the same season, 
but will make little or no seed until the following season. If planted 
in the fall, it ripens its seed crop the following July. Spring sowing 
is seldom advisable, and then only on the Pacific coast and hi the arid 
regions. When spring sown, it is best to pasture the crop the first 
season. In the Eastern and Northern States spring seeding should 
never be practiced, as the plants seldom survive the humid heat of 
summer. 

Through the lack of the proper nitrogen-forming bacteria, hairy 
vetch frequently fails to produce a crop on land where it has not pre- 
viously been grown. It is therefore advisable, whenever hairy vetch 
is seeded on land for the first time, to inoculate the seed with a pure 
culture of the nitrogen-forming bacteria, or to inoculate the soil with 
soil from a field where hairy vetch is being grown. 

The seed may be sown from the middle of August till November, 
September being the best month. If sown alone, 40 pounds of good 
seed to the acre are sufficient, though 60 pounds are frequently used. 
As a general practice, however, it is better to sow it in conjunction 
with a small-grain crop oats, winter wheat, or rye. Oats are often 
used in the South, but in the North wheat or rye must be used. Rye 
is the favorite, but if intended for hay the wheat combination is more 



6 PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED. 

nutritious. In growing such mixtures for seed, enough grain is used 
to make about two-thirds of a stand and 20 pounds of the vetch seed 
are added. Such a mixed crop is easily cut with a mower having a 
swather attachment, or even with a binder. If more vetch is used 
it is liable to lodge, especially in spots where the vetch is thick, and 
the mowing is therefore rendered more difficult. 

Where hairy vetch is planted alone, it nearly always becomes more 
or less lodged, and should be mowed, if possible, against the direction 
in which most of it is lying. After cutting the first swath, it should 
be rolled upon the uncut vetch before cutting the second swath. The 
two swaths should then be rolled out clear from the uncut vetch. 
Sometimes three swaths are combined in this way. The cut vetch 
should not be handled more than is necessary in curing, and care 
should be taken in shocking to cover the pods as much as possible. 
Hay caps are very desirable for this purpose. In thrashing pure 
vetch it is sometimes desirable to have sharpened teeth on the con- 
caves, as long vetch is inclined to wrap about the cylinder. 

If hairy vetch is pastured rather late, the subsequent growth will 
not be tall, but often is heavily set with pods. The same result can 
be obtained by cutting the vetch early and feeding it green or putting 
it into a silo. Such a second crop is much more easily mowed than 
tall vetch, and in some instances excellent seed crops have been thus 
secured. 

Some farmers obtain their own supply of seed by cutting hairy vetch 
for hay rather late, i. e., after some of the pods have ripened. Much 
of this seed will rattle to the bottom of the mow, especially if a little 
care is taken to shake each forkful as it is being used for feed. Such 
late cutting reduces slightly the value of the hay, but the seed obtained 
often justifies the practice. 

Hairy vetch ripens its pods over a period of two or three weeks. 
The best crops are obtained when the first pods are fully ripe and the 
upper pods well filled. The latter ripen in the shocks, and if carefully 
handled comparatively few of the ripe pods shatter. It is best to cut 
the crop early in the morning or on a cloudy day. In any event the 
vetch, whether cut in bundles or otherwise, should be put into shocks 
at once and left thus till thrashed. The most important rule is to 
handle the cut crop rapidly and as little as possible. 

An incidental advantage to the use of locally grown hairy vetch 
seed is its much better germinating quality. Old seed has a large 
percentage of hard seeds, which lie in the ground a long time without 
sprouting and which are practically valueless to the farmer. Fresh 
samples collected in Europe in 1911 gave a uniformly high germina- 
tion, only one testing below 91.5 per cent. Imported seed, which is 
usually 1 year old, frequently shows a hard-seed content of 10 to 40 
per cent. 



PRODUCTION OF HAlffl' VETOiJ ' SEED/. , 













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8 PRODUCTION OF HAIRY VETCH SEED. 

EXPERIMENTS IN GROWING HAIRY VETCH SEED IN AMERICA.^ 

While hairy vetch for hay or green manure has long been grown] 
successfully in nearly all parts of the United States and Canada, 
there has been relatively little investigation made of its seed produc-l 
tion. Table II is a compilation of published American data in 
seed production, together with unpublished results obtained by the 
Department and its cooperators. 

These results show yields ranging from 3 to 15 bushels per acre, 
with an average of 6^ bushels for all the trials. Such a yield makes 
a decidedly profitable crop. Where vetch is grown alone the seedi 
yields are heavier, but this is largely counterbalanced by the diffi- 
culty of harvesting, so that it is advisable as a rule to grow it in 
combination with rye. 

Approved: 

JAMES WILSON, 
Secretary of Agriculture. 

WASHINGTON, D. C., August 7, 1912. 

[Cir. 102.] 



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